Friday 30 November 2012

There are times when Z becomes introspective and is better ignored until the feeling passes

It was a lovely party and I saw several old friends whom I hadn't spoken to for a long time.  I sat between Betty, who is 91 and Mary, who's aged 90.  They both looked very well, but I know they're not.  They put a brave face above their painfully ageing bodies.  A couple of friends (there were over 50 of us there) had changed and looked very old.  I've known most of these people for over 20 years, we've all got older together, though I'm the youngest of this group of friends, and because we've all aged we don't see it in each other.  But...well, Florence, whom I hadn't seen since her 100th birthday party in August last year, hadn't changed.  A couple of others, who I saw a few months ago, didn't look the same women.  So, whilst it was a delight in so many ways, and it was enormously thoughtful of Marian, whose birthday it will be in 5 weeks, to get us all together, there was a valedictory air (I had an attack of imagination, something I can normally avoid).  Some of us will not be alive this time next year, I know it.

Of course, that could be said of any one of us anyway.  Ho hum.  Ignore me, darlings, I did have a great time this afternoon but it's left me feeling a little melancholy.

I do rather love old people, though.  I feel a great warmth towards them - well, that is, I don't think that age really matters all that much, old or young, or it shouldn't.  And if you're with someone who is old, especially who lives alone, do touch them.  Nothing inappropriate of course, but so many people miss the warmth of affectionate human contact.  There was a lovely old man to whom I used to deliver Meals on Wheels, who always wanted a hug.  I remember once, he didn't want to let me go, and I heard him mutter "this is what I want, this is what I want."  He didn't do anything to make me feel awkward, he was a kind old man who missed being hugged.

I don't mind getting old.  I do hope that I never become argumentative or feel the need always to be right, or become grouchy.  But I might, sometimes you can't help it.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Z is musselbound

I suppose it was inevitable, having mentioned it - I've eaten more bread today than I have for weeks, though it was only a couple of slices.  I just couldn't face plain yoghurt for breakfast this morning, so ate a slice of dry toast instead.  And, since the Sage was out and I visited the market today where there is a splendid fish stall (a different fishmonger calls on Mondays), I was tempted by mussels.  I also bought trout and squid, come to that, something is going to have to go in the freezer as I went to the butcher too.  I got a bit carried away.

Anyway, mussels.  The Sage is a moulefree zone, so I generally eat them when he's out.  In fact, I deliberately plan nice meals when he's away because I don't react to being lonely by being sorry for myself, which is just silly.  I buy something I like and he doesn't, so it works out for the best.  Sometimes, I cook a new recipe, especially if it's spicy, so that I can gauge whether it needs toning down for him.

It was quite a trayful in the end, a dish of moules marinières, a separate dish of the liquid because I'd strained it in case I hadn't scrubbed every grain of sand off the mussels, and it was easier to sip separately, a plate, a dish for the shells, a glass of wine, a spoon and a plate for the bread.  Because a rice cake just doesn't go with the dish.  I sat in the sitting room - oh yes, dear hearts, I'm not one to avoid the obvious, and I read the paper and I watched daytime tv.  Though I can't remember what was on, come to think of it, so I must have mostly scooped mussels out of their shells and afterwards read the papers.

As Blue Witch says, a lot of people find they feel healthier without bread.  I've got several friends who had IBS, diverticulitis and suchlike, who cured themselves by cutting out wheat.  One had had to give up all raw fruit and vegetables, to her great disappointment, but now is fine - she's still cautious about raw veg which is noticeably heavy on a delicate digestive system, but she's good with salads again - and a couple of others who just feel generally better.  In my case, I'm already surprisingly healthy, which I put down to eating a little bit of absolutely everything and - let's face it - being extremely lucky.  But, though I don't feel any different, I have got that little fat round tummy this evening.

Tomorrow, I will have it again.  Because we're going to a tea party to celebrate a friend's 95th birthday.  I suspect we'll have the full monty, sandwiches, scones, cakes and all.  It'll be great and I will not consider the diet at all.

What to have for breakfast is the problem, though.  It's not quite porridge weather yet.  I've bought some muesli, although I'm not that keen on the way any cereal goes soggy the moment milk touches it.  Maybe an egg, otherwise.  Or a banana.  *Sigh*.  I get bored with anything that I eat daily, I have to ring the changes.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Z muses rather than amuses

It really is great having Elle here.  We've been to the cinema again tonight, with another school friend of hers, and I'm not going to let this go again after she leaves.  I've been far too solitary, not going to concerts, theatre, cinema, because I'd be going on my own.  The Sage has never enjoyed it, though he's patient about music if it sounds pleasant.  I'm not meaning to be rude, he's quite close to tone deaf and doesn't feel music in the way he does tangible things and it isn't his fault.

I've also been busy rewriting and updating the induction pack for governors.  This is quite dull - well, it was while I was just updating, though it was the easy part.  I inherited a couple of letters, quite formal, welcoming new governors and saying a bit about what we do - but it isn't me, it doesn't give the right feel.  So I'm going to write a new one tomorrow, which should be a lot more fun to do and will give a more inspiring introduction, I hope.

The Sage is going to visit friends in Manningtree, which is near Ipswich.  He's known them for many years, longer than he's known me.  They're both in their 80s now, both have dementia and we sometimes get rather confused phone calls from the husband.  It's very sad, but the Sage is never one to turn his back on old friends.  And he's not as sharp as he was himself come to that, he's seemed ageless all these years until recently and now he isn't.

But there's another thing entirely that I've been meaning to talk about, and it should be on my other blog really - and I'll update that in a day or two - and that is ... oh, I hate having to say this because it seems faddy and I can't put up with that - but I'm still losing weight, very slowly (but I always do and that's good and healthy) and yet I'm not dieting.  I'm not overeating, but the key is bread.  Sorry loves, I like bread and I haven't cut it out, but I've cut wheat down to a minimum without being fanatical about it, and that's what makes the difference.

Ever since my mother, desperate for a cure for an illness that the hospital couldn't diagnose (my friend Sophie said to me, once cancer was finally diagnosed, that the digestive system is huge and a small tumour can't always be found), slipped into the hands of alternative *medical* therapists, some of whom, whether well-meaning or not, were charlatans, I've had considerable reservations about alternative medicine.  Yet I am a balanced Z and don't dismiss them all equally.  Similarly, although I have utmost respect for food intolerances, preferences, allergies, dislikes (you have only to mention it to me once and I will remember and respect it), I don't want (and hope that medical necessity doesn't make me have) to avoid any food.  But modern wheat doesn't really suit me.  When I've eaten more than a slice of bread or a spoonful of pasta, I get a fat round tum, and when I avoid it I lose weight.  Simples.  At least the fat round tum doesn't presage flatulence, that'd be a real bugger.  But I often eat cheese for lunch, and at one time I'd have avoided it and simply gone for salad (I love salad, that's no hardship, but not eating cheese is), but it isn't necessary.  Woo hoo.  I'm sure it's modern varieties of wheat and methods of breadmaking, by the way, and not all countries use them.

I'd have had more respect for her therapists, you know, if one of them had ever said, please go back to your doctor because something is plainly wrong that I can't help with.  But, although I saw in the faces of a couple of them that they'd have liked to say that, they never did.  They just kept taking her money. Which made them all charlatans, though not as bad as those who spouted mumbo jumbo and didn't give a....well, there we go. One has to forgive, though it's a damn sight easier to forgive wrongs to oneself than wrongs to those we loved.

Rambling?  Yes, sorry.  This is why I blog, loves.  I tell you what I'm thinking about.

And now I'm going to bed.  Goodnight.  Thank you.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Endings and a fresh start

It's been hanging in the balance for a few years, and last Friday I received a letter confirming that WRVS Meals on Wheels would finish altogether in Norfolk.  I've told all the helpers (I'm the village co-ordinator) and today I told our customers that their last delivery will be on Thursday.  I asked if they need help, if they can manage, and that the local cottage hospital does a similar service, but daily instead of twice weekly - unfortunately, at about double the cost, but it's extremely good.

I've delivered MoW for much of my life.  As a child, I used to help my mother and once I learned to drive I did her deliveries when she was laid low by three-day migraines.  I took a few years off once Al was born - you can manage with one baby but not with two - and have delivered them in this village for the last 25 years.

Al and Dilly have been house-hunting and, a few weeks ago, put in an offer on a house in a village just this side of the Norwich/Ipswich road which was accepted.  They've been waiting to hear and today were told that the completion date is, as they hoped, this side of Christmas (sorry, BW, but I'm using it in the sense of a deadline).  The Sage and I will really rattle around in the house once it's all turned back into one (the bungalow was originally a granny annexe).  The children will move schools, it'll all be quite a change.

There's a covenant on the bungalow to say it is an annexe to this house and can only be lived in long-term by a relative, so letting it out isn't an option at this stage.  We're in no hurry to do anything yet, we'll think about it for a while.  There's no reason why we can't have guests to stay, of course, so we may (if we buy more beds) be able to have more of you to stay over at the next blog party.

This evening, I've spent quite a lot of time updating governor information, because we've had two newcomers and some changes on committees and so on.  We're in the process of having a parent governor election at present, at the end of which there will be a full governing body, and I do always hold that as one of my aims (we held two places free to offer to governors of the middle schools when they closed), as long as everyone is really good and committed to helping the school.  And they're very good.  We've got a wonderful set of governors, everyone works hard and supports the school but isn't afraid to ask awkward questions.

Al and family are doing the right thing and I'm very pleased for them, but of course we'll miss them.  It's been great having them living next door all this time and a privilege to see so much of the children during their earliest years.  They're not going far though and we will spend quite as much time together in future, the main difference being that we'll have to plan it rather more than we do now.

Monday 26 November 2012

Young Jane - 4

So Jane joined the Land Army.  She was keen not to be looked on as a girlie, but as someone who could keep up with the men.  Land girls had the reputation of being afraid of cows, seeing every one as a potential bull, of squeaking at the sight of a carthorse or a bale of hay (heavier than straw, as I'm sure you know) and thinking that the job entailed the carefree scattering of corn to the chickens.  My mother (darlings, think me and you get my mother, only I don't have the hang-ups ... no, I'm quite normal and have no hang-ups .......... oi.  Shove it, darling) was pretty tough, in a charmingly feminine way and took a lot of pride in accomplishing anything that was thrown at her.

There were three horses on the farm she was sent to.  One was a carthorse, and I'm sorry to say that I can't remember his name.  Wink might know and, if she tells me, I'll let you know.  One was a regular horse.  The third was an ex-polo pony called Monsieur de Talleyrand, who could turn on the proverbial sixpence.  What he thought about farm work he kept to himself.  Jane could work with all of them.  The carthorse (I'm ashamed that I can't remember his name: I want to say it's Boxer, but of course that's another story entirely) could pull a big cart of hay and my mother took pride in being able to steer him at speed through a gateway, only a few inches to spare either side.

She found it a tough life, for several reasons.  One was, of course, the physical hard work.  She was just under 5 foot 6 inches in height (appreciably taller than I have ever been) and slender, but took on as much as the men did.  Not that there were many men about at that time, most of them had been called up.

I've got several stories to tell you about her time in the Land Army and she did a good job, I don't want to hurry it.  I've talked to women who were in the ATS and the - oh blimey, I don't really do initials.  Women's army, navy and air force.  Few of them worked as hard as my mother did, none of them as hard physically.  I admire her - but then I admire people who put their back into a job.  

Sunday 25 November 2012

Custard, anyone?

Actually, if you want to see me with really green eyes, not just in a photograph, make me cry.  Green against red is intense.

Mig commented on how cruel it was to make my mother cycle home for such a meagre lunch, and that maybe shutting her in a dark cupboard was seen as less unkind than hitting her.  In fact it's true that my mother never mentioned that her stepmother hit her.  But I think that the psychological bullying was intended to break her spirit, as they used to say, to make her give in and become malleable.  Jane was more stubborn and more clever than her stepmother and wouldn't give in.  Terrified as she was of that cupboard, she never showed it at the time, though the effects lasted all her life.

My father was the same.  He never gave in over anything, once he'd made a stand, although he very rarely argued.  There were a few childhood stories - the most pertinent one being the tale of the pudding fork.  After his parents divorced, he often spent school holidays (having been sent to boarding school at the age of six) with his godparents, who were loving but quite strict.  He'd never used a spoon and fork to eat his pudding, he was only a little boy, but he was required to.  He just sat there.  The spoon was taken away.  He was told he'd sit there until he'd eaten his pudding with a fork.  He just sat there.  I don't know how long this lasted, but I suspect that they begged him to eat the damn pudding and he just sat there.  I doubt he ever gave in.  I don't know the end of that story, I just know that the consequence was that he never ate pudding with a spoon and fork in his life.  He'd only use a fork, however inconvenient it was.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Z does not show herself in a good light

I'm not sure why my skin is so strangely yellow, but that isn't the point of the photo.  Nor is showing you my wrinkles.  If you look at that tiny mark on my eyelid just above the right edge of my iris (as you look at it) that, with a faint residual bruise, is all I have to show for the operation on Monday.  I couldn't be more pleased, relieved or grateful.

Friday 23 November 2012

Young Jane - 3

I skipped through her childhood far too quickly - actually, it was because it wasn't happy, not at home, but I suppose I shouldn't shy away from that.  I have had a quick look back through old posts, most of which were in the 'family story' series if you did want to search back, in 2006 and 2007, and I'll only repeat things if they're relevant to a story I'm telling.  I don't feel inclined to repost anything, I like writing to you.

Jane was very conscious of being the only child at her school without a mother.  She remembered another small girl telling her that her mother had smacked her.  Jane was shocked, she knew this woman and she was a loving, kind mother with apparently endless patience, so she asked what happened.  The child had behaved badly and kept doing it when told to stop until mother snapped.  This was 80 years ago, that sort of behaviour just didn't happen!  So Jane asked why on earth she'd behaved that way.  "I was seeing how far I could go," wept the girl - which I still think is funny and I know just what she meant.

Jane couldn't go far at all with her stepmother.  It was all such a shame.  I don't for a minute suppose that she embarked on that marriage without hope, even though there wasn't a romance involved.  Mummy said that it wasn't too bad to begin with, but then she inherited a lot of money, over £40,000 - a fortune in those days.  I suppose the irony of marrying for security and then getting it through a legacy, so she was unnecessarily saddled with a husband and stepchild she didn't care for, embittered her and she took some of it out on the child.  My mother was quite claustrophobic, as a result of having been shut in a cupboard as a punishment.  The stepmother, whose name I don't know, became very mean.  Although she had adequate housekeeping money, she wouldn't pay for Jane to have school lunches and she had to cycle three miles home and then back again every lunchtime (as well as the same at the start and end of the day of course) to eat a lunch which, typically, would be a small bowl of cornflakes and half a banana.  School never shut for bad weather by the way, and Mummy remembered sometimes having to carry her bike through snowdrifts.  Occasionally, she couldn't tell where the edge of the road was if the fence or hedge was entirely covered with snow.

She was immensely proud of her bike, by the way, which was new and a very good one.  It had been a present from her father on passing the exam and interview into the high school at the age of 9 instead of 11.

Mummy remembered one time when her stepmother and she laughed together.  They decided to make lardy cake, which is a traditional West Country pastry.  They followed the recipe carefully, cooked it - and it was so tough that, when they tried to cut it, both knife and cake ended up on the floor.  It might have infuriated the mother, but it was so ridiculous after all their work that they looked at each other and burst out laughing.  Even the birds wouldn't touch it.

As an aside, I'm so sorry about the dreadful weather that you've been having in that part of the country. It hasn't touched us in East Angular, but I've been thinking about you and hope none of you have been flooded out or otherwise affected.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Young Jane - 2

My grandfather remarried when Jane was seven, but it wasn't a success.  It was a sad situation all round - Jane was devastated to be removed from her grandparents and she didn't get on with her stepmother.  This lady had married in the hope of a comfortable life, I suppose, maybe children of her own, but they didn't come along and she had a resentful little girl who never came to love her.  Jane did get on well with her stepmother's sister, who lived on a farm in Devon and had her to stay in the summer holidays,  but in the end her father left his second wife and he and Jane moved to Weymouth.  This was in 1938, when Jane was 14.

And here's a funny thing.  My mother never hid her age, we all knew she was born on 11th November, 1923 - and yet she got her sums wrong.  She always said she was 14 when the war broke out (September 1939) but of course she was 15, nearly 16.

She was a clever and ambitious child and had hoped to go to university.  She passed the entrance exam to Trowbridge high school two years early.  But she'd hardly started at her new school in Weymouth when war was declared and, on the south coast, it seemed a safer place than London and refugee children were sent there.  So the pupils had half day schooling and had to leave their books behind for the refugees in the afternoon.  Once the headmistress started to hold frequent fire drills and everyone had to leave lessons to go and hide in hastily-dug trenches, nothing was learnt at all.  So Jane left school the next summer after taking O Levels and went to a secretarial school near Weymouth harbour.

It sounded quite fun really.  The teacher, a rather fussy chap, had little control over his students.  When the air raid warning sounded, they all rushed up to the flat roof to watch the 'dogfights' between enemy and Allied planes whilst he wrung his hand and begged the young ladies to go to the shelter.  They thought the fighting was great fun, especially when a German plane was shot down.  They they'd go downstairs in time to watch the airmen being taken to the local police station.  They were always in their socks, having lost their boots to the water.  Mummy got to know the local policeman later, Mr Carter, and could imagine his stolidly courteous interrogation.

Finally however, one of the British planes was shot down and the crew were killed and it brought home to them that it wasn't fun at all.  Worse, a plane was lost altogether, and at harvest time the next summer it was found in a cornfield, with the bodies of the crew still in their seats.

As time went by, Jane became old enough to be called up.  She didn't want to join one of the Forces.  She was confident among people and in situations she knew, but she was uncertain about being with strangers.  She didn't want to wear military uniform and she was very modest and didn't care at all for the idea of a medical examination.  So she volunteered to join the Land Army.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Young Jane - 1

My maternal grandparents were cousins and fell in love at an early age.  My grandfather, David, served in the army throughout the first world war, when both his brothers were killed.  My grandmother, Janet, was the ninth of ten children - her mother had had a baby every three years, starting at the age of twenty and finishing in her late forties.

Tragically, Janet died at the age of 25, when my mother was only 18 months old.  This was in 1925 and David wasn't able to look after her alone.  His mother and Janet's father, both widowed, had set up home together (they were brother and sister) and took in the little girl while he was at work - he was an engineer and had to travel to find a job.

My mother remembered her early years as idyllic and adored her grandparents.  They were both quite elderly, especially her grandad, and she always said she had quite a Victorian upbringing.  Her Grandad used to refer to policemen as Peelers, which was quite outmoded by that time - for anyone younger than I am, I probably need to explain that.  Both Bobbies and Peelers used to be nicknames for policemen, both after Sir Robert Peel but whilst you still might hear a reference to 'bobbies on the beat', I can't think anyone has mentioned a peeler in decades, not in normal conversation.  Mummy used to quote her grandfather whenever possible "we'll finish the game of bowls and beat the Spaniards too" was one of his sayings (think Sir Francis Drake) and she used to describe how his blue eyes twinkled when he made a joke.

Her grandmother had, as I said, had the tragedy of losing two of her three sons in the war.  My sister did a bit of research a few years ago and discovered that she had actually been with both of them when they died.  In one instance, she was able to travel to France to nurse him in hospital, in the other he was brought back to England but died of his injuries.  They were both six-footers, whilst the third and surviving son was several inches shorter.  An advantage in the trenches?  Not much help if you had to go 'over the top' I would have said, but he was the lucky one.

She brought the little girl up to be polite and kind.  "Never be rude to those who cannot answer back," was one of her maxims - meaning shop assistants, waiters, servants.  And mummy never was and nor am I.  She was a very precise lady.  Once she went to buy material for a new blouse.  The assistant asked what colour was wanted.  She drew herself up very straight.  "Heliotrope," she said.  My mother never forgot the expression on the poor girl's face, not having a clue what she meant (purple, darlings.  Heliotrope is a flower of a rather dull purple colour, which has the most wonderful evening scent).

There were other memories of those early years.  She did remember her mother, just - on a train station platform, suddenly the train let off steam and, frightened, she buried her face in her mother's coat.  It was her earliest memory.  Painful ones were when she disturbed a wasps' nest in the garden and ran screaming to the house, wasps in her hair and stinging her all over.  She was terrified of wasps all her life, quite understandably.  And once, a piece of gammon had been boiled and the pan of hot water left on the back doorstep.  Running in from the garden, she stepped right in it and was badly scalded - though no scar was left, it was a frightening experience.

She received nothing but love and care at home, but maybe it was the knowledge that she was different, that she had no mother, that gave her an insecurity that lasted all her life - although it was well hidden for many years. 

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Bare-faced cheek

Here I am, make-up-less and - actually, I could have done something with my hair, couldn't I?  No matter.  My eye does look a bit pouchy in the photo, something I hadn't noticed in the mirror.  However, the swelling has gone down, it's just a bit red and no one seems to have noticed all day, or maybe they're just too tactful to mention that I look as if I've been in a bit of a dust-up.  You should see the other fellow, darlings.

I feel so much brighter of eye, though.  It's made me realise that my brain must have been disregarding the obstruction to my vision - that is, I didn't consciously see the mole but it must have been blocking the corner from my sight because there's a difference now, even without glasses on.  I keep putting the damn things down and losing them, though.  I can't read with them on or prepare food, nothing close to.

So, enough about that, end of story.  From tomorrow, I'll tell you a bit about my mother.  I'm afraid there are no early photos of her though.  Hardly anything from her childhood was kept - her grandmother's glove box and portrait (which I don't really know what to do with) and that's it.  Her father, when he was losing his sight, decided to burn all photos and memorabilia, which was a great pity.  So the portrait will be painted in words.  As I said the other day, I have written about her before so it'll be based on posts from six years ago.  Only a few of you will have read them and fewer remember them, so I hope that you will excuse me as Blue Witch has kindly done.

Monday 19 November 2012

Z looks like a pirate

Yo ho ho, darlings, I may have missed Talk Like a Pirate day, but at least I can look like one for a couple of hours.  I can take this off soon in fact, but I'm keeping it on for long enough for the children to laugh at me.

I'll put in photos, but to save you from any gruesomeness you'd rather not see, I'll insert a break and put them after that (I hope I can work out how to do that).

First they sent me downstairs to the medical photography place to have pictures taken.  I felt a bit of an idiot, having a young man asking me to look at the camera, look at the ceiling, sit up straight, left a bit...while he took photos of a lump on my eye.  Then back to the eye unit - it had taken half an hour's waiting, so someone had gone ahead of me, but that was okay.  A sweet nurse called Zerlina (that is, her name was the same as little z's real one) took my blood pressure, which was 151/82 and therefore quite a bit higher than usual, and asked me to read the chart.  I was wearing my glasses and was able to read it from top to bottom with either eye, which rather impressed me, as I can't always do that.

I waited a bit longer - Dilly and Hay were with me, but eventually went off to get some tea - and another nurse came and gave me some plastic bags to wear over my shoes - that is, they were elasticated and intended for the purpose - and then took me through to sign the consent form.  The surgeon met me there and went to get ready.  I was given a head cover, highly becoming I'm sure, to keep my hair out of the way, anaesthetic drops were put in my eyes, then iodine to clean the eye to be done, then we went into the theatre.  Once I was lying on the operating table, I had another drop put into my right eye, then he injected a local anaesthetic into my eyelid,* then it was clamped open.  The lights were extremely bright.  The procedure itself was very quick.  When he started to put the clamp on, I began the 17 times table, which is the best for distraction purposes.  May, the nice nurse, held my hand but I didn't need to squeeze, I saw the lesion being dropped into the bowl as I reached 17 times 5 is 85.  The surgeon said he reckoned it was a mole.  It'll be sent for analysis, but no one thinks it'll be a problem.

Then he put the eyepatch on me, I was told to keep it on for a couple of hours and that I'd be given eyedrops and to return in a few weeks, and I sat up and left the room.  I've got an advice sheet and the drops and Dilly has asked us in to dinner tonight so that I don't have to cook.  I must be careful for a few days, not bend over or lift anything heavy so that it doesn't bleed.  No stitches, but he cauterised it.

So that's done.  Here are the 'before' photos - if you've met me, you'll know what my eye looked like but it's distinctly unappealing in close-up, so if you're the least squeamish, don't click on the jump.

*I'd forgotten this, BW reminded me

Sunday 18 November 2012

Z does nothing

It's a lovely day, I should be gardening.  I'm not though, I don't feel like doing anything much today.  I'll read the paper, listen to music (the poor Sage must hate what I have on at present, I should put on earphones) and generally chill.  Elle is due to return sometime today, it'll be fun to have her here again.  Her laptop needed repair and her parents decided it would be better to buy a new one - it was a very old Mac, originally her father's, then her sister's, and they knew its days were numbered.  They arranged for one to be delivered here and I took it along to the school on Friday, so she'll have had the fun of opening it there.  It's an advance - er - *you know what* present.

Things will be busy here for the next week, though nothing really to talk about, so I thought I might write about my mother for a few posts: her early life, that is, before she was married.  But I've checked and I already have, about five years ago.  So now I'm scouting around for a subject.  Any suggestions will be received with thanks.  After all these years, it's not easy to think of anything new.  Of course, I haven't known many of you for that long, but there are some from way back and I wouldn't want to make you think I was being lazy by covering old ground - or not too often, that is.

The main thing happening tomorrow is the operation on my eyelid.  It'll be interesting to see what happens, I suppose, at any rate.  The little growth under the lid must have got slightly bigger - it looks much the same but I can feel it against my eyeball all the time now, which I only used to do at night in bed, when my eye was a bit dry.  Bah.  It'll be good to have had it done and I hope it doesn't leave much of a scar.  If it does - oh well, no matter.  I expect it'll be fine.

Saturday 17 November 2012

Edboes moves house

Well, the sale was a success, but it exhausted the Sage.  He agrees with me that help is needed.  Further developments in due course.

Ro stayed overnight, which was lovely.  He kept me company, though not at my pace, in whisky drinking last night.  This morning,  I cooked bacon, eggs and tomato and then Ro filled the car with various items, including his guitar and computer, that he hasn't had room for in Norwich.  Also, and most importantly, Edboes.

As you can see, Edboes is thrilled.  He hasn't had a ride in a car for at least twenty years, and he's lived here for twenty-six and a half, nearly, years.  You'd never think he was twenty-eight years old, would you?  For a while, he's sat next to Bobby the leopard, which has given him something new to think about.

Ro might not forgive me for this, so I'll remove this tomorrow.  In the meantime, enjoy...

Friday 16 November 2012


I had lunch with friends on Thursday.  I'm a Lady who Lunches, once a month - yes, darlings, I'm that sort of girl.  I started this to keep my mother company, over 20 years ago.  I was the youngest then and I am still the youngest now, though not by so much nowadays.  Anyway, they're all retired, quite high-powered, very public-minded, fairly conservative, whether with a big or small c or both.

On my table of eight, two said they had voted, four said they were not going to vote, one said she was going to spoil her paper and one said she had to vote because two of her aunts had been Suffragettes, she couldn't not vote, but she might spoil her paper too.  Mostly, there were two reasons - one, they didn't see any reason for the police commissioner to be an elected post, particularly party political, and it was a waste of money and two, there had been so little information on the subject that they didn't know whom to vote for anyway.  Of the two who voted, we had both looked up details online, and I'd also read it in the local paper, though there was just one brief article a couple of weeks ago.

Ro also voted.  He said that he'd rather someone he supported got in than not vote and have someone he didn't want.  That was my view.  Also, I thought of the people in the world who don't have the vote and didn't have a vote in the past, especially women (I'm very unsexist normally, I promise, but disenfranchisement is more likely to happen to women) and so I appreciate the rights I have.  Ro agreed with me there.

Anyway, if intelligent and committed people choose not to use their right to vote, that seems quite telling.  But maybe it'll work out, who knows?  Ro checked the news tonight and apparently here the Independent candidate won.  He and I voted for him first and the Sage gave him his second choice, so we're all pleased.

Ro is staying overnight, which is lovely.  I've just promised him bacon and eggs for breakfast.  He's very pleased.

Thursday 15 November 2012

A(u)ction stations

The auction is tomorrow.  Here's the catalogue.  The miniatures at the end, lots 86-89 are just gorgeous, so sweet.

I don't feel as though I'm ready as I usually am, though I can't think what it is that I haven't done.  I've checked the paddle numbers of people who've left bids, noted those I'm bidding for and whom I have to phone (Charmian will phone one because two people have booked calls for the same lot).  I've printed off new paddle numbers, got the printer ready with sheets of A5, bought food, though shedloads of sandwiches have to be prepared in the morning ... I don't know, it feels something is missing.  We have to leave a bit earlier than usual because we have a couple of calls to make on the way, maybe that's it, that I don't feel there's enough time.

This morning, I put washing in the tumble drier and pressed the 'on' switch and nothing happened.  The switch appears to be broken.  With 5 loads of washing waiting to be dried and me going out most of the day, this wasn't entirely convenient.  Normally, I'd have put washing on the line of course, but there just wasn't time.  So it's all draped over an airer in the kitchen or has been dried in my back-up tumble drier (of course, did you doubt me?).  I don't have a boiler room or an airing cupboard, there's not a lot of scope for drying things indoors, even though this is a biggish house.

The odd thing is though that I've had an impulse several times this week to buy an airer.  It hasn't been convenient, so I hadn't - I'd assumed that this frugal impulse had come to me because of the increase in fuel prices, but I've long learned that if I have a yen to buy something I should do it, because the need will become apparent within days.  And so it did, so I nipped out to the Factory Shop and got it - 20% reduction for the day, fortuitously - but it is odd.   Like, a couple of weeks ago I had an urge to buy pine nuts and then, browsing through cookery books a few days later, I wanted to make something with pesto and was able to make it, but that thought could have sprung into my mind because I had the ingredients.  But in this case, I had no indication that the machine would go wrong.  It worked last time I used it, it's been fine.

Anyhoo.  We've got the house-sitter booked, everything ready to go.  And by the end of the month, we can forget all about the auctions.  For, oh, weeks.  Almost until 2013, with any luck.

Oh, forgive me darlings, for I am going to be immodest.  I was immensely appreciative today when my appearance was described as "stunning."  I was wearing my 30-year-old quilted jacket, I don't claim the credit.  All the same, I take compliments wherever possible at my age.  And I had my hair cut yesterday, so I was a bit less scruffy than usual in the personal grooming stakes.

Right.  Enough boasting and I apologise.  Darlings, I'm going to have an early night.  The Sage has gone upstairs already.  He's very good, he'll have put on the electric blanket so that I can snuggle down after I've had a bath.  I think I shall make a nice cup of tea to take up with me.

I voted, by the way.  I don't think all that many did though, did they?

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Z tackles the web

I don't hate housework, but it rarely takes priority.  However, tomorrow morning will have to be set aside to clean the house.

It's not that I haven't done anything of course, the kitchen and bathroom have to be kept reasonably hygienic, if not tidy, and I'm up to date with the washing and I even hoovered a bit the other day and wiped dust off surfaces that show up most when the sun shines, but it's not enough and I'll have to work until it's done.

But it's so tedious, if not unpleasant.  There's satisfaction in sorting out a really messy room or cleaning something filthy, but just routine wiping of every surface whether the dust is visible or not, changing the bed linen in chilly bedrooms, hoovering the ceilings to get rid of spiderwebs (whilst being careful not to catch any spiders, of course), moving furniture - no, none of it is my idea of a good time.  So I set a series of time limits.  I set a timer on my phone and that gives me an incentive not to dawdle.  Twenty minutes to clean the bathroom, for example, half an hour for my bedroom (it's just a little bit untidy, I have to confess), another half hour for the rest of upstairs, and so on.  Breaking the time down gives me a sense of urgency and prevents me stopping to read for a while or breaking for a cup of coffee when I take the laundry downstairs.

I should get a cleaner of course, and one day I probably shall, but I've never come across one who works as fast as I do when I get going, so it feels a bit of a waste.  Anyway, it'll be worth it.  It will last for weeks once it's done.  

Monday 12 November 2012

Lovely Mary

Today was the funeral of my mother's best friend in the village.  Mary was fabulous.  Tall, blonde with flamboyantly stylish dress sense and a love of big hats, loving and enthusiastic with never a bad word to say about anyone, she had a wonderful singing voice and a love of entertaining.  She used to hold musical evenings with a group of friends from church and the Choral Society and 100 or so people would crowd into the hall (her son bought the local Big House some 30 years ago and Mary and her husband Jack lived in an apartment there) and afterwards have supper.  She was born in 1915 and loved the music of the 1930s and 40s, but I'm not sure of the vintage of the song whose chorus she used to make the audience sing along to (I should have checked the words, forgive me darlings) - "Hang on the bell, Nelly, hang on the bell, Your poor father's locked in a cold prison cell, As it swings to the left and it swings to the right, Remember, the curfew must never ring tonight."  Nelly's father was going to be hanged when the curfew bell sounded, but a pardon was on its way, as I remember.

The reading chosen for the service was the first Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 13, the one about love, or charity if you prefer the King James version.  My mother chose the same passage.  And here are verses 4 to 7 for you.  I don't know which translation it comes from.

Love is patient, love is kind;
Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude;
Love does not insist on its own way;
It is not irritable or resentful;
It does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in right.

Love bears all things, believes all things,
Hopes all things, endures all things.

Mary married in 1939 and before then worked at the Pinewood Studios in Elstree, retouching negatives for publicity stills.  She showed us some of the pictures.  One in particular I remember was of herself, when she was standing in for a film star - I can't remember who, blonde and slender.  She had her back to the camera, it was against a window, looking out at a garden - might have been in a conservatory, I can't remember that either.  But she showed us before and after pictures, where a leaf that caught the eye was touched out, so was a wrinkle on the dress, a slight bulge at the waist as she swayed to one side - there's nothing new about the camera deceiving the eye.

Sunday 11 November 2012

Eleventh day of the eleventh month

Of all the shocking statistics of the First World War, one of the most shameful is that hostilities didn't cease on the morning of Armistice Day.  Between the signing of the armistice at 5 am and when it came into effect at 11 am, the killing continued.  863 men, I think it was, died in those 6 hours.

As always, the congregation listened intently as the Roll of Honour was read out from our three villages for the two wars, 25 men having been lost from my own little village in the first war alone.  I say this every year, but I'm afraid I'm still going to.

I didn't let anyone down, I'm relieved to say, I played the Last Post and Reveille to the best of my ability, right speed, no fluffs, no wrong notes and I remembered to set the stopwatch so that the silence was exactly two minutes.  Several people thanked me afterwards, which was kind.  I wasn't anxious on my own account, I promise, but not to let the occasion down.

I nearly came unstuck last night, mind you.  I was cooking dinner, mind drifting over this and that, and i suddenly remembered that I'd said I'd do an arrangement for the altar, which I'd meant to do on Friday and, failing that, on Saturday first thing but it was raining then.  I hastily grabbed a basket and secateurs and went into the garden to pick greenery, then scampered down to the church after dinner and did a speedy job with foliage and poppies.

And this morning, just in case I had forgotten, Gill brought some greenery so that she could rescue me if need be.  Isn't that lovely?  Friends do look out for each other, it's so kind.  I had to do it by 8 o'clock this morning though as there was a service then too.  Frosty overnight it was, but it's a sunny day now and, I'm told, it's set to warm up this week.  I'm glad to hear it.  The Aga receives its annual service on Tuesday and we'll have to turn it off tomorrow night in readiness.

Saturday 10 November 2012


It was always going to be the mattress that would be the tricky bit.  We just had to hope it would fit in the Landrover.  Dora's brother came along to help and we shoved and curved it and it was so nearly there.  The front seats were already upright because I don't like leaning back, I always prefer to sit up straight, but I set them to lean forward and the extra inch or two made the difference.  I grabbed a handful of mattress and pulled, Ro slammed the door and we were in.  They have a memory foam mattress topper which we crammed into the front passenger seat and the car was full.  We filled Ro'n'Do's car, Bro's car and we were off.  When we arrived at the new house, I had to reverse into the drive fairly blind, but managed it with surprising aplomb (actually, this was the second trip and I'd practised first time around) and the youngsters looked impressed.  "Mind you,' said Bro, "you'd have been fine if you'd had an accident on the way.  Very well padded."  He meant the car interior, not my figure, darlings.

Ro'n'Do didn't have any other furniture to move, except a small desk, as their previous home was furnished, so it was just their personal items, kitchen and bathroom stuff, television and so on.  All the same, it was eight carloads in total.  When I left them, they were going to have one last trip back to the flat to dust and hoover (they'd already cleaned the bathroom and kitchen - Ro asked me to check with my landlord's eye and I gave it a good pass, but suggested he check with the landlady before handing the key back to ask if she had further requirements), then take some stuff to the dump and then ... home.

Welcome to your new home, darlings.  Not that you'll have internet access for a bit - how is it that most utilities get their act together promptly, but the phone and internet companies keep you waiting for ages? - but all things come, you've got heat and light in a lovely house with delightful, friendly neighbours and I hope you will be very happy there together.

They were apologetic for not feeding me, but they didn't really have any food.  So I came home and, sometime after 3, ate an egg and a slice of toast.  A couple of spoonsful of yoghurt and a rice cake for breakfast, I've just had a bit of blue cheese, a few cherry tomatoes (the last of our own) and four green olives because it's another hour until dinner is ready and I won't last.  Tonight, roast chicken, leeks and courgettes. I've cooked potato for the Sage but not for me.  I haven't weighed myself, but yesterday I wore a skirt I would last have fitted in when I was about 42.  But the waistband was slightly tight.  Discipline?  No, darlings, I am very easy-going, I will love you whatever you do.  But I choose my own path and it's going to be a narrow one.

Friday 9 November 2012

Busy day

I didn't think much was happening today and thought I'd do some gardening or maybe - oh joy! - housework this afternoon.  However, it's 4 o'clock and I've just sat down with a cup of tea, so neither of those will happen.  Though I just did put a load of laundry on to wash.

This morning I took myself off to the Remembrance assembly at the school, where 1100+ pupils squeezed into the Sports Hall (no room for the sixth form, so they had their own assembly at their own site), plus the teachers and most of the support staff, so that was another 100+, and guests and I sat facing them.  And an incredibly moving, quite harrowing service it was.  An old boy dropped in, a serving Corporal who has not long returned from his third tour of duty in Afghanistan.  And whatever you think about whether we should ever have gone in (Mister Blair not having learned a thing from the Russian invasion of the same country), you'd not have a word to say in disparagement of our army if you heard him.  He spoke most movingly, not only of the need for teamwork and the support and friendship of colleagues, but also of their focus on helping the Afghan people, mentioning in particular the children who have so very little and would, the girls anyway, be denied even a basic education.  He spoke of what the Royal British Legion do - it was hard to listen and not show great emotion, impossible not to feel it.

Then the school chaplain - the local Rector and a school governor, who served 30 years as an army officer - spoke of his days in the army too.  He served in Northern Ireland and he talked about mourning, loss and remembrance.  Then the Head Boy and Head Girl each read a WW1 poem.  More than once I had consciously to straighten my back and set my chin firm, very aware of all those people facing me.

Afterwards, my friend Mary and I spoke to the young Corporal.  When he left school after taking A Levels, he decided not to apply to Sandhurst straight away, as he didn't feel he could issue orders and lead troops without experience.  So he signed up into the ranks.  Now, six years on, he feels ready and is going to apply to Sandhurst in January.  Mary asked about equipment nowadays - if you remember, there were awful reports about inadequate and unsafe equipment in the early days - he said, having been back three times in those years, he has seen for himself how things have improved and continue to do so.  He buys his own boots mind you, but he said that's because none of the three styles available really suit his feet.  He has no complaints about the resources being researched and provided at present, which was interesting in this time of cutbacks and, even if you're against the idea of this country's involvement in present wars, it's not our lives on the front line.  It's not the soldiers' fault that the war is happening, they're doing their duty.

At this point, around 4.30, I received a phone call and, 3 hours later, I'm back...

So I went home, to be met by the Sage wanting a lift.  I grabbed a couple of rice cakes for lunch and off we went.  Our friends are both aged 80, but his health is precarious and it's not easy for his wife to care for him.  However, they are generous in time and advice - in this case, on a piece of china.  The Sage is a great expert in his field, but merely knowledgeable in similar china of the same period, whereas they have incredible expertise in all aspects of the field.  They confirmed his opinion.

And we came back, having bought food for the weekend, and received a call from Dilly to say that Big Pinkie was out.  Big Pinkie had had a frisky little foray in the morning too.  This time, she was on the road.  So we tempted her back into her field with some apples.  Her companion cow (if anyone had any other thoughts, shame on you) was waiting anxiously and I gave her apples too.  They were both still keen for some treats, so I went in the house and cut up a half cabbage, left over from Tim's recipe, halved a few more apples and went back out.  The other cow was quite disappointed.  She likes apples a lot more than cabbage, so I divided the spoils accordingly.

I came indoors, made a pot of tea and started writing this.  Then I had a phone call from Elle.  She was on the bus with a girl who had left something vital at school.  Not too late, teachers would still be there (they do not knock off when the bell rings, whatever you might read in the newspapers from reporters who don't check their facts) and I popped in to fetch the bag.  And then I followed the bus to take it back to her.  Only took 20 minutes and we should all help each other, innit?*

And I had a money-off coupon from the Co-op (16%, plus 10% off wine) so I went in to buy mostly booze on the way home, and the Sage and I promptly drank the bottle of Cava that I had so wisely bought pre-chilled.  Pork chops, onions, parsnips, tomatoes and leeks - oh, and baked potatoes - for dinner.  Coffee now.  Then relax.

Tomorrow, help Ro and Dora move stuff to the new house.

Oh, my upstairs tenant has handed in his notice.  He's been great, has kept the flat immaculate and been really helpful.  I'm sorry he's leaving, but he's buying his own place which is really good news for him. So I can only wish him well.


Thursday 8 November 2012

Z the Matriarch

If you managed to read the post I published at around 5.30, you were quicker off the mark than I was.  When I posted it, I discovered that it had auto-saved in draft several times, or rather just the first line or so, before I gave it its title.  Internet up and down like a small dinghy on a rough sea.  So I deleted the drafts, which you have to do one at a time.  Sad to say, one of those times, I accidentally deleted the post and not the draft, and the feed reader hadn't yet picked it up.  So - crikey, darlings, how I know for sure I'm no writer at all is because I can't be bothered to do it again.  I'd never be up for the revisions.  But I'll try, as there's nothing else at all in my mind to write about.  Except, it's so trivial that it's not worth writing again.

Okay.  I'll try.

Z the Matriarch

I had lunch at school today, liver and bacon casserole, which is served on a Thursday by special request of the Head.  His wife won't cook it for him, and the Sage wouldn't thank me if I cooked it for him, so if I'm in on Thursday that is what I choose, with mixed vegetables, cabbage and mashed potatoes.  Very traditional, as was the rest of the menu.  Vegetable lasagne, shepherd's pie, quiche, as well as the usual pizza, baked potatoes and so on, and there's always salad too.  All home made, of course.  Pudding was a fruit crumble with custard, there was fresh fruit salad, buns and flapjacks, that sort of thing.  Yes, we follow the nutritional guidelines although, as an academy, we're not obliged to.  But actually, we're quite keen on our children eating good food.

On the way to the dining hall, I was stopped by a group of girls.  One asked if I thought the world was about to end.  "Don't suppose so," I replied, "Are you thinking of the Mayan prophecy?"  They were, though they were more interested than concerned.  We talked about what could happen - whether the earth would flood - rather interestingly, one of them reckoned that if the flood water entered the volcanoes, the world would explode altogether, though another thought it was just mankind that would succumb, with or without the rest of the animal kingdom.*  Maybe we'd all be worms in a swamp and evolution would start all over again.  One girl thought there would be a few of us left.  "We'd all have to breed," she said.  I offered to leave that to them.  I'd mother them and cook their meals.

After lunch, I chatted to a member of staff in the cloakroom as we washed our hands and we talked about a teacher who had a baby on Monday (his name is Jonty).  We also talked about broodiness, and I said I kept it at bay with the arrival of grandchildren. I mentioned that I have five of them and her eyes widened.  It made me feel old.  Not that I've a problem with being old, but I forget about it sometimes

*insert gender-based options as required

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Z doesn't eat a slug

Ro is now a home-owner.  He and Dora are planning to move at the weekend - their landlord doesn't mind them staying on in their present place until they're ready to move their stuff. Not that they have much, they are going to start almost from scratch.  Except for kitchen utensils of course, Ro has a well-equipped kitchen.

He's always enjoyed cooking.  When he was at university, sometimes I'd get a phone call - "I've bought some tuna, can you suggest a recipe?"  Or he might ask for a good sauce to serve with chicken, or enquire about the finer points of making gravy.

It does't happen every day of course, but a few times a week I spend half an hour or more going through a pile of cookery books, deciding what I'm going to serve for dinner.  I leave the more experimental things for when the Sage is out and sometimes take the opportunity to cook a fairly elaborate meal containing ingredients he isn't too fond of.  Not that he's overly fussy, just compared to me.

Having said that, I frequently don't follow recipes at all, or use one just for guidance.  I cook quite simple food most of the time, though I've been giving a bit more thought to meals with Elle to cater for. Not that she's difficult to feed, she eats almost anything too.

It puzzles me that children nowadays seem to consider eating vegetables an ordeal.  I never did, it wouldn't have occurred to me, and I don't remember any children of my age being fussy about food.  Of course, anyone can dislike certain tastes, but that's not the same thing at all.

Having said that, I probably was less fussy than most.  I remember one occasion, I was probably about seven, and my mother opened a tin of celery hearts.  Now, cooked celery is about my least favourite vegetable (though I like it in casseroles and soup) but I wouldn't have dreamed of leaving it on my plate.  But I cut into it and found, right in its heart, a slug.  A cooked, canned slug.  Fortunately, my mother left the room to fetch something from the kitchen at that moment (we were alone together) and I picked it out quickly and slung it in the fire, where it sizzled.  Then I ate the celery.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Z wonders how much wine it's reasonable to drink of a Tuesday evening

I'm quite the saddest git I know.  It was rather good to feel my nose grating on the grindstone again.  I'm playing hooky right now mind you, I've got work to do this evening.  I had a long talk with the Head, caught up on school things, discussed the next meeting, I've sent a lot of emails to get things moving, I feel as if I've done a reasonable job.  If you don't earn money from what you do, it can be dismissed as trivial, even by your family (some of them) - I'm sound in my self-esteem because I know I've occasionally made a decision that has had a big and positive impact, but it takes some effort when one is normally judged by money and status.  And yet, I don't believe in either of those myself, not in themselves.  Maybe it was my upbringing in a church school, maybe it was parental influence, maybe it was born in me.  Actually, I believe that it was.  Al is the child most like me and most like my father and, though they never met and he and I have never talked about it, we share many values.  I'm not even sure that he knows that, in fact, and we're not big on hearts-to-heart nowadays.  When a son marries, a mother should step way back and recognise that his wife holds his heart and mind, not her, or she should do.

I had no idea I was going to write that.  Blogging is surprising, don't you think?

We had herrings for supper.  I gutted them, saving the roes (one hard, one soft), bashed them on the backbone to flatten, dipped them in oatmeal and fried them in butter and oil, adding the roes at the last.  I wasn't sure what to serve with them, but ended up with a sweetish wholegrain mustard which worked well.  I fried potatoes, cooked French beans, which were the last from a local grower - there was a sharp frost last night, he picked them just in time - and served some of the last of our tomatoes which were a bit random but delicious.  Very much an end-of-summer feel to the veg.

And there will be a winter feel to the next day or two.  I've bought leeks and parsnips and a cauliflower.  The price of caulis has gone up because of the cold, but I know that Tim isn't profiteering, but rather that he'll have dropped his profit margin.  In a box of ten or a dozen, he'll break even on the second to last and make any money on the final one.  Anything thrown out constitutes a solid loss.  If you don't shop locally, bear in mind that the small shopkeeper has no buying power.  He pays what the wholesaler charges.  The big supermarket cuts out the wholesaler, buys direct from the farm and sends back what isn't sold.  There's no risk, yet many supermarket prices are as high or higher than your local greengrocer's or butcher's or fishmonger's, if you're lucky enough to have any of those.  I'd rather go without something else than not shop locally, though I used a big supermarket too when my children were young and I had to shop for five every week.  I still used the local greengrocer, butcher and fishmonger, though, because they were much better value, and I still supported the village shop, though few did and it finally closed.  Now it's just the Sage and me, I use small independent grocers or the Co-op where they employ many High School students in the evenings and weekends.  And yet, I understand well that many people can't afford the luxury of not shopping around.  As I say, I've gone for the cheap option too, it's buying smaller that gives me choice.

I'm feeling strangely intense this evening, darlings.  Probably it's because I haven't finished work, so am still on duty as it were.  But also, and unusually, I had a good night's sleep.  I woke four times I think, but I wasn't awake more than ten minutes each time, and that's such a rarity that I feel as if I slept the clock round.

Monday 5 November 2012

Fawke an' fireworks

It's a good thing that several members of the family had birthdays on memorable days.  Sadly, none of those people are still alive, so I have to rely on memory nowadays.  My grandfather was born on Trafalgar Day, my mother on Remembrance Day and the Sage's father on Guy Fawkes (yes, he was named Guy).

Anniversaries have never been something that registered too well with me and as I get older, my own seem even less important, hence my decision to ignore my birthday this year.  It took the Sage and me years to remember without checking the day of our wedding anniversary.  I'm fine with family birthdays, but that's about all.  Conveniently, Weeza's children are born 2 days (and 4 years) apart and their wedding anniversary is the day in between, so that's easy enough, and 5 of us have September birthdays, so it's just a matter of remembering which is which.

Outside the family - no, not really.  A couple of people always send me a birthday card which is a bit embarrassing really, as I haven't even asked when their birthdays are.  I'd forget, so better not to ask in the first place.

A few years ago, I looked up the date when the Sage and I got engaged.  I knew the year, the day of the week and the week of the month, so it was quite easy to check it on the internet.  But I've forgotten again.

I am particularly successful at forgetting sad anniversaries, or I used to be.  I blanked for years the day my father died, until I found all the newspaper reports a few months ago, and I haven't succeeded in forgetting it yet.  I remembered three days in January, the 18th, 19th and 24th.  One was the day Muldoon was born, one was the day Wilf my stepfather died and the third was the day my father died.  I had no intention of checking, but now I know them all, unfortunately.  I resolutely don't think of them on the day, though.

What I do note are personal milestones, such as the day I was 33 1/3 (it was a Leap Year, conveniently).  And the day I'd been married half my life, then two thirds.  Sorry about the jump between numerals and written numbers.  I'm holding on with a surprising sense of significance to the day when I shall be a day older than my father when he died.  Though if you asked me if it bothers me, I really can't say that it does.  Or rather, I don't think it does, but it must do at some level, mustn't it?  Otherwise I wouldn't be so aware of it.

Anyway, we let off the traditional humungous rocket this evening in memory of Pa, which probably woke all the babies and made all their parents hate us, and have been warming up by the fire since.  Nippy out tonight.  Dry, but.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Old dogz

Yes, as Mike suggests, it can be more a matter of keeping up and improving the things you can do than starting to learn entirely new ones.  Although there must be a point at which that decision is made ... for example, I was about 38 when I started clarinet lessons.  I had the advantage of being able to read music though, so it wasn't as hard as it might have been (I'm being modest there, btw - yes, I know that's a rarity - I worked extremely hard, practised hours a day), but now, although I often think how much I'd like to be able to play more instruments, I think I'm going to stick with the ones I've got.

When I was young, I often chose to learn skills that had little or no practical application.  As time went by, however, I found that was becoming harder - that is, if it wasn't going to be used, what was the point in acquiring the knowledge?  There have been times when I've been too practical, I think, but that's been when I've had too much on my plate already and had to prioritise.

I played the organ for the church service this morning, not very well.  I hope it wasn't too obvious.  I kept the tune going throughout, but the notes I played with the left hand rarely bore much relationship to the ones on the page.  I was just filling in with chords at random.  Well no, not at random.  Reasonably harmonious, just not as written which was a bit worrying as I was never sure what was going to come out.  I'd forgotten my glasses, which didn't help - the distance I am from the page is just wrong, either for my left short-sighted eye or my right contact lens-corrected one.  It's something I'd give up altogether if I could - playing the organ, that is.  I've done it for well over twenty years and it still gives me no pleasure at all, unlike playing the piano which I do enjoy, however badly I do it.  Funny, isn't it?  You'd not think the one was so different from the other.  But I digress.  Actually, having started writing this yesterday and not had time to finish it, I'm not sure - again - what I wanted to say.  Oh damn, darlings, I'm cracking up.

I think it was about what one learns and why, and at what age one is happy to hold on to what one has, whether to do it better or at least hang on to the capability one already has.  I'm feeling slightly bored at present, or at least restless.  I don't think I've shot my learning bolt yet, but I don't know what to choose.  And I don't, in truth, have much spare time - apart from this week ... maybe it's just because I've had a few days without a load of papers to read and meetings to prepare for, which reminds me that the agenda for the next governors' meeting has to go out on Wednesday.  

What I shall have is some space, in the physical sense, because Al and the family are planning to buy a house and move away from here (not very far) in the near future.   So a house that we already rattle around in is going to get that much larger.  Good job we've got Elle here for the time being - except not for the next couple of weeks because she's staying with a friend.  The Sage and I will have to think of something to talk about to each other again.  Right now, he's tapping away on one keyboard and I'm on another.  Perhaps we'll just communicate by email.

Friday 2 November 2012

New tricks

I'm not one to say I can't do something, not if I can help it.  I'll generally have a go though quite often, even if it goes reasonably well, I may not choose to do it again  - playing the music at a wedding and giving a ... not a sermon, but a talk in the sermon spot in church come to mind.  I prepared assiduously, but I feel no need to repeat either experience.  Oh, and I knitted myself a scarf and hat three or four years ago.  The hat was shaped very nicely at the top, but it proved impossible to do the ribbing at the bottom.  2 purl 2 plain was too much for me.  I kept forgetting which came next.  So I unravelled it and just made it stocking stitch all over.  But it fits, it's neat enough and it demonstrated that I don't particularly need something to do with my hands in the evening.  I used to like tapestry and a bit of sewing, but that would have to be done by daylight nowadays and I gave it up when I discovered that I could no longer see subtle graduations of colour by artificial light.

I'm not planning to take up any sort of artistic endeavour.  This daily drawing thing is just one of my whims and it'll pass within days.  It's just that I've had time on my hands this week, which has been very pleasant.

Oh darlings, I wrote a whole lot more and then the internets went down and it was all lost.  Al and Dilly and the children came in and then we had dinner and then I wrote some more, and then it all went belly-up and I can't remember it all because I was just typing.  I'll do my best...

I was musing, as I do in my Z persona, about how and why one learns something quite new in later years.  A friend whose wife died when he was about 80 set out to learn to cook, very successfully.  After all, he needed to feed himself.  She had been an excellent cook and he wouldn't have been too happy to rely on ready meals.  He used to invite friends in for dinner: usually a casserole followed by stewed fruit, with a bottle or two of excellent wine.  And I've written already about my 94-year-old friend who bought an iPad and has learned to email and use the internet.

The Sage's father, on retirement, took up golf as many people do once they have time on their hands.  I can't imagine ever having quite that much time on my hands, not with the energy to spend half a day on the golf course, but plenty have.

And then there are those who take up writing, such as Mary Wesley whose books were all published when she was knocking on a bit, and there was the headteacher of the girls' school at Southwold - her name was Ann and I'll remember her surname in a bit - who took early retirement and cycled pretty well around the world, in stages, coming home in between major bike rides.  Not that this was learning something new as such, but she certainly did something quite unexpected and very different.

Me ... no, I don't think it's likely.  If I manage to persevere with the clarinet that'll be fine.  If not, I'll be disappointed in myself.  But we do what we can and it depends on the circumstances whether one should blame oneself.  For now, I just wish I could remember the point I started off wanting to make.

PS - Ann Mustoe.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Z is Soxiable

Well, today's drawing was of the cockerel you see above this post.  And it's shown me that I can draw chairs better than I can draw cockerels.   I considered keeping on drawing the chair day after day to try to improve, but blimey darlings, I'm not that dedicated.

But I'm running ahead of myself again.  Eddie Two-Sox and I met in Norwich and spent several hours together, mostly eating and drinking (not whole lots, darlings, just took quite some time over it because it was raining so we were better where we were) though we also had a look round the cathedral.  We've only met a few times but, as so often with bloggers, we fell straight back into our friendship and chatted as though we saw each other all the time.  And then he caught his bus with a minute to spare, which was unintentionally clever timing.

And the Sage had the kettle on when I got home and made me some tea, and he'd lit a fire and now he's brought me a glass of wine, so he's missed me in a most satisfactory way, not that I was gone all that long - and he did go out for lunch himself too, so we've both done well.

Elle has gone to a Hallowe... oh, it's a Hallow party, isn't it?  She wanted to know if I'd got anything suitable to dress up in, so I gave her the freedom of my wardrobe.  She phoned me earlier on to ask if she could borrow a white garment - she described it as 'sort of a chemise.'  I've no idea.  I said she was welcome to help herself.

Hope you got home safe and dry, Eddie dear.